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Step Up and Save a Life

More than 350,000 people go into cardiac arrest while not at a hospital. (cdc.gov)
More than 350,000 people go into cardiac arrest while not at a hospital. (cdc.gov)
June 9, 2017

ANNAPOLIS, Md. – Every year, more than 350,000 Americans suffer cardiac arrest in a location other than a hospital, and for every one of them, their survival depends on someone stepping up to administer CPR immediately. According to the American Heart Association, almost 90 percent of people whose heart suddenly stops will die because they don't get cardiopulmonary resuscitation.

Dennis Grejczyk and his family operate a business that teaches CPR.

"CPR itself is not about reviving anyone," he says. "It's about keeping their brain and body oxygenated so advanced medical can deal with it down the road. So what you're doing is buying them time. It makes such a difference in recovery for everyone involved, just to do something."

The vast majority of out-of-hospital cardiac arrests happen at home, so if you are called on to perform CPR you will most likely be helping to save the life of someone you love.

The American Heart Association, which introduced hands-only CPR in 2008, says there are really only two steps you need to follow: Call 911 or have someone do that, and press hard and fast on the center of the chest.

Grejczyk, who teaches CPR, says sometimes people avoid learning it because they think it's difficult to master the concept. But he says that's not true at all.

"It is a very, very simple concept to understand," he explains. "We have taught people as young as fourth grade where we had 50 fourth-graders in a class, and every single one of them walked out of there being confident and being proficient in the skills necessary to do CPR."

Another thing Grejcyzk says people worry needlessly about is pushing too hard on someone's chest, and breaking ribs. He has a condition that requires a medication that has a nasty side-effect: sudden cardiac arrest. It happened to him, and he lived to tell about it only because a stranger gave him CPR.

"I myself am a CPR survivor," Grejczyk adds. "Nine years ago on the 8th of May, so just past my 9-year anniversary, I had CPR done on me and it saved my life, and when I woke up I assure you I did not go to the guy and say, 'Did you have to push that hard?'"

The American Heart Association has plenty of resources to help anyone learn CPR at heart.org/handsonlycpr.

Veronica Carter, Public News Service - MD